White House: An Historic Guide

Jacqueline KENNEDY   |   John F. KENNEDY

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Item#: 125179 price:$28,000.00 Currently On Reserve.

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(KENNEDY, John F.) (KENNEDY, Jacqueline). The White House: An Historic Guide. Washington: The White House Historical Association, 1962. Large octavo, original full red morocco, marbled endpapers. $28,000.

Limited second edition of this guide to the White House, the second of two limited editions, number 41a of only 75 presentation copies specially bound in full morocco, warmly inscribed on the limitation page by President Kennedy to his personal physician at the White House: "For Dr. Travell—with warm personal regards, John Kennedy," and signed beneath this inscription by the First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. With laid-in printed White House presentation card from "The President and Mrs. Kennedy."

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy "took an interest in 'restoring' (as opposed to redecorating) the White House. She had it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. She also wrote and edited the first White House guidebook, which was sold to tourists. The proceeds from the book were used to help finance her restoration of the White House with historic antiques. She also made the White House a symbol of American cultural renewal by scheduling performances of ballet, Shakespearean drama and classical music; the most notable of these events was the rare live performance of cello virtuoso Pablo Casals," here pictured on pages 80-81 (ANB). Generously illustrated with numerous color and black-and-white photographs, the book introduces readers to the history of the Executive Mansion and leads them on a tour of its most notable rooms. This second edition was published the same year as a limited first edition of 100 copies bound in green morocco. The softcover first trade edition was also published in 1962. Limitation leaf, with inscription, tipped in with cloth tape, as issued. This copy also has a laid-in presentation card with the envelope calligraphically addressed to "Mrs. Janet Travell Powell" (matching the JTP monogram on the front board). The card features the Great Seal on the front while the inside bears an inserted printed presentation card from the President and Mrs. Kennedy. Dr. Janet Powell was President Kennedy's personal physician at the White House for his entire time in office. During her early career, she began focusing on pain research, both investigating and developing cutting-edge pain relief techniques. In particular, she was a trailblazer on the issue of back pain relief. Using injections, cooling sprays, dry-needling, and a number of other techniques, she found unique ways to relieve muscle spasms in the back—a concern that had not been adequately treated to that point. Unsurprisingly, her work caught the attention of Kennedy's then-physician. JFK struggled with back pain his entire adult life. According to an article in the Journal of Neurosurgery by Drs. Pait and Dowdy, Kennedy had a sickly childhood before eventually sustaining a lower back injury in 1937 while playing football at Harvard. In 1940, he attempted to join the military, but was repeatedly rejected due to his back concerns. Joseph Kennedy was forced to intercede and did so successfully. However, just a few months into his naval career, then-Ensign Kennedy had to be hospitalized for his back. His father once again pulled strings to make sure Kennedy could attend PT boat training school. The events surrounding PT-109 then took place. Kennedy swam for hours, dragged crewmates to safety, and much more—a grueling test for his already ailing back. After securing a military discharge, Kennedy returned to the United States. Although his doctors continued to be conservative in their recommendations, Kennedy finally opted for surgery, hoping it would cure his issues. The doctors removed one disk and the rear part of another. For two weeks, Kennedy improved before devastating back spasms threatened to render him unable to walk. According to a modern review of the films that preceded the operation, Kennedy's spine was radiographically normal and the surgery was likely unnecessary. During his time in the Congress, Kennedy's back continued to trouble him, particularly after he developed Addison's Disease (likely secondary to his use of steroids to control inflammation and pain). By the time he reached the Senate, he was in excruciating pain and using crutches to walk nearly all the time. Despite a high risk of death during surgery, Kennedy opted for a second spinal surgery—largely to correct the damage done by the first—in which his lower back was fused and a plate was installed. Kennedy barely survived the post-surgical period. Three days after surgery, he developed a UTI and went into a coma—even receiving last rites. Additionally, the surgical site failed to heal and became a gaping, infected wound. In an attempt to fix the problem, Kennedy underwent yet another surgery to have the surgical hardware removed. Shortly after that surgery, Kennedy was introduced to Dr. Travell. Dr. Travell viewed Kennedy's back problems in a whole new light, focusing on pain remediation rather than on structural intervention. Using trigger point injections and sprays, Travell worked to make Kennedy's pain less intrusive. According to an interview held at the Kennedy Library, she also introduced a heel lift to correct his posture (one side of his body as smaller/shorter than the other) and suggested what would become his iconic rocking chair. While Kennedy's condition improved from many of Dr. Travell's interventions and he was well enough to win impressively in a Senate race, the hundreds of procaine injections she had given him became a concern. Kennedy also became well enough to win the 1960 presidential race. Before arriving at the White House, Kennedy asked Travell to be his personal physician at the White House. While both were unsure of what the role would require, they decided to go forward. It ended up being a demanding role, with Travell overseeing nearly every aspect of Kennedy's care, from securing doctors to treat his many health concerns to dealing with the issue of dog hair in the White House (Kennedy was highly allergic). However, concerns arose over Kennedy's excessive use of Travell's procaine injections. Kennedy started to use other doctors and other drugs, including methamphetamine injections. Kennedy's back pain soon became intolerable. The situation could not continue and, after several doctors stepped in, Kennedy began a grueling physical therapy regimen that helped to improve his condition markedly. Nevertheless, he refused to give up the corset brace that, while weakening his midsection also provided comfort and support. Today, that corset brace—bound in place with Ace bandages in figure eights over his thighs—has (somewhat controversially) been blamed for his death, as he was unable to collapse after Lee Harvey Oswald's first shot into his neck and thus was upright when he was shot in the head and murdered. Travell had been the formal Physician to the President until Kennedy died. Travell stayed at the White House for two more years, before leaving to continue a professorship at GWU. She stayed there for the rest of her life, writing, researching, and making breakthroughs in myofascial pain.

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